25 April, 2017
NASA has released a new image of earth clicked from Saturn's Icy Rings, where it can be seen only as a point of light.
NASA Cassini spacecraft is about to embark on the most crucial part of its mission, the grand finale "death dive" where it will plunge to its demise, but not before beaming to Earth some fantastic photographs of our home planet taken from space.
By destroying the spacecraft, NASA will ensure that any hitchhiking Earth microbes still alive on Cassini will not contaminate the moons for future study.
"Titan's gravity will bend Cassini's orbit around Saturn, shrinking it slightly, so that instead of passing just outside the rings, the spacecraft will begin its finale dives which pass just inside the rings", NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.
It's the beginning of the end for NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
Cassini's radar team will be looking this week at the final set of new images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes that spread across Titan's north polar region.
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This made Cassini's grand finale death dive more special since images like this is considered rare during the entirety of its mission.
The mission will conclude with a science-rich plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15th. The Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker said that the grand finale of Cassini-Huygens is just another brand new mission because the space probe will show the biggest discoveries on its final orbit.
The close encounter with Titan increased Cassini's velocity to about 1,925 miles per hour.
After buzzing Titan, Cassini coasted onward, reaching the farthest point in its orbital path around Saturn at 8:46 p.m. PDT (11:46 p.m. EDT) on April 22. The earliest time Cassini is scheduled to make radio contact with Earth is 12:05am PDT (2:05am CDT) on April 27th.
Cassini's fuel is running out, and therefore, the orbiter's work at the ringed planet is nearly done.